A true Baltimorean author, Anne Tyler, opens “Dinner at the Homesick Hotel” about a dying mother speaking with her heartsick son. “You should have got an extra mother,” she can barely say to him.
“How shortsighted of you,” or so the son imagined his mother saying, since she could no longer form words.
He hears her say, or imagines her saying, “You should have arranged for a second-string mother.”
I read this book many years ago but that exchange stuck with me. Losing a parent is as natural as it is difficult and heartbreaking.
I was lucky to have my mother for 62 years.
As for getting an extra mother or a second-string mother, there is no substitute for your own mother.
As you all know, Annette Patz was a very patient woman. She didn’t mind waiting for her meal in a crowded restaurant, or for her doctor or dentist to see her. She could be nearly Zen-like.
Well, no, that’s not right. I must be thinking about that second-string mother that I’ll never get, or want.
My mother was not a calm person nor a Yoga master. Of late, too many trips to the ER pushed all this to the limit, perhaps. She’s been known to sign herself out of rehab centers. And, not so long ago, simply walked out of the Greater Baltimore Medical Center, no walker; no wheelchair, and hailed a taxi back to her assisted living facility.
We’ve know that she had lost patience with living. She’d been through a lot, and many of the people she’d loved were gone.
I think she looked around at those still living: myself, her grandchildren, great grand daughter, siblings, and felt that we were OK.
She knew in fact how lucky she was to know little Abigail Rose and to know there was another great grand child on the way. All of her time with us, all of us, was precious.
She said goodbye knowing we would all do well.
I don’t have an extra mother; Justin, Jenna and Reid don’t have an extra grandmother; Naomi, Shirley and Howard don’t have an extra sister. Life isn’t fiction, as much as perhaps we would want our life stories to play out like novels.
There is no second string Annette Patz. We say goodbye today to the original, and each of us is lucky for knowing her.